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How Bhutanese households spend and earn

Bhutanese spent almost one third of their income in meeting rental, energy and household operation expenses according to the 2003 Bhutan Living Standard Survey prepared by the National Statistical Bureau.

Saktenpas who come with their caravan of horses and yaks to carry their food stock take three days to reach home as the animals find it difficult to climb the steep rock-strewn path.

Rental expenses
household energy
13 %
12 %
Miscellaneous expenditure 10 %
food expenses
-rice and dairy products
-meat and vegetables
37 %
14 %
3 %
alcoholic beverages
-urban areas
-rural areas
>2 %
3 %
tobacco and doma >1 %
furnishing and equipment 5 %
transport, communications <5 %
health >2 %
education > 3%
household income
-salary and wages
-private businesses
46 %
34 %
8.4 %
2.5 %
0.2 %
6 %
Rental expenses
household energy
household operation
13 %
12 %
>3 %
1 %
monthly household consumption expenditure
Nu. 7,362
-urban areas
Nu. 11,100
-rural areas
Nu. 6,250

Rentel expenses by itself was about 13 % and household energy use (which includes electricity, gas, kerosene and firewood) around 12 % and household operation costs more than 3 %.

Clothing and footwear took up about 10 %, furnishing and equipment about 5 % and transport and communications less than 5 %.

Miscellaneous expenditure which figures at more than 11 % has not been specified but could include items like expenses on buying vehicles and land in the urban areas and cattle and agricultural tools in the rural areas.

With health and education provided free by the government, expenses in these areas was under 2 % and 3 %. Expenses on recreation was the lowest at 1 % on the national average and about 2.5 % in the urban areas.

On food expenses which was about 37 % of overall expenditure, about 14 % was spent in equal measure on rice and dairy products indicative of the Bhutanese dietary habits. An average 3 % each was spent on meat and vegetables and a little over 2 % on alcoholic beverages. Expenses on alcohol figure less than one % in urban areas and nearly 3 % in the rural Bhutan. Consumption expenditure on tobacco and doma figure less than one % (0.84 %).

According to the survey more than 81 % of the categorised food items were imported including import of rice and dairy products which was almost 55 %. Over 90 % of the fish, tea and coffee, cooking oil and non alcoholic beverages consumed were imported.

The main sources of household income (by expenditure) were farm enterprises and wages (including religious fees paid to monks). According to the survey, farming was a source of income for about 46 % of the Bhutanese and salary and wages the main income source for about 34 %.

About 8.4 % of the Bhutanese earn income though private businesses which include small retail shops to big construction houses. Little more than 3 % earned income through rent, real estate and selling of assets.

Remittances as a source of income was around 2.5 % and includes money sent within the country from the towns to the villages as well as remittances coming in from abroad. Pensions as an income source was a meagre 0.22 %. Other sources of income was about six percent.

The director of the National Statistical Bureau, Kuenga Tshering, explained that although income from farm enterprises was the major source of income for the Bhutanese it did not mean that it was the only source of income for a household. "It only indicates that it was the major source of income for a majority of the Bhutanese," he explained.

According to the survey the monthly household consumption expenditure in Bhutan was about Nu. 7,362. In the urban areas monthly household consumption expenditure was more than Nu. 11,100 and Nu. 6,250 in the rural areas.

Contributed by Phuntsho Wangdi, Kuensel 2004

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